The Frederick Douglass-Susan B. Anthony Memorial Bridge
Originally known as the Troup-Howell Bridge, the Frederick Douglass-Susan B. Anthony Memorial Bridge is a well-known part of the Rochester skyline. Often used as the background in commercials, news stories and various photos (weddings, etc.), I myself have taken several photos of it so I decided to look at the bridge and its history a little more in-depth. It was worth the look. I learned a lot.
The bridge carries traffic over the Genesee River and is part of Interstate 490. The Troup-Howell Bridge was built in 1953-1955. It was a multi-girder bridge connecting Troup Street to Howell Street and was part of the original construction of the proposed Inner Loop and Interstate 490. It was meant to be part of the Eastern and Western Thruway connection, and it was in service for nearly 50 years and was widened and reconstructed many times.
The original bridge was actually opened six months ahead of schedule before it had its final asphalt wearing surface. It was opened early because of repairs being done on the Clarissa Street (Ford Street) bridge at the time. City officials were worried about traffic congestion downtown during the holiday season. During the 1950’s downtown was a big deal at Christmas time. Opening the bridge too soon proved to be a bad decision. A bad winter that year scarred the unfinished bridge surface and ate away parts of the unfinished deck. It was repaired, but four short years later, more repairs were needed.
By the 1970’s chunks of concrete were falling from the underside of the bridge damaging cars in the parking lot beneath it. The bridge closed for two years in 1971, and the entire deck was replaced. At the same time all direct local access to the bridge was eliminated and the bridge became a limited access freeway. The original bridge had a pedestrian sidewalk, and that was removed.
Ten years later the bridge again needed repairs, and rehabilitation took place. It was also discovered then that the bridge, which was not originally meant to carry trucks or heavy traffic, was having problems with the large trucks that crossed it daily. It was bouncing. It underwent further rehabilitation in the 1990’s. It is estimated that construction and all the various repairs and rehabilitations over the years had cost $36 million. A decision was made to replace the entire bridge.
Construction of the new bridge “began in April 2004. To prevent the flow of traffic from being halted on I-490, the construction of the arch bridge and the demolition of the girder bridge were done in stages, which allowed a minimum of four lanes of traffic, two in each direction, to be open at all times. On June 18, 2007, the bridge was officially completed and fully open to traffic for the first time” (en.wikipedia.org, 2013).
The new bridge was renamed the Frederick Douglass-Susan B. Anthony Memorial Bridge in 2007. It has received numerous awards, “including national recognition from the Federal Highway Administration for its design in March 2009” (rocwiki.org, n.d.).
Now that I know more about the history of the bridge, I understand why the original bridge had to go. It certainly had a rocky past. We are fortunate that it held up as long as it did. The “Freddy-Sue” bridge is expected to last another 50 years.